Second Saturday: Hot or Not?

Hi kids,

I was very flattered when I was asked to contribute to The Sac Rag a few months back. My “beat” was supposed to be the Midtown music/arts scene, but my only post of significance so far has been about getting fined for riding the light rail when I was 5 cents short.

[Taken care of, BTW. I can walk the streets without fear of arrest. Well, for that, anyway. There’s still that whole “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die” thing. But I have a good attorney who says the “Twinkie defense” definitely applies in my case. Really. I ate a Twinkie. When I was 12, but since they have no expiration date, it still applies. Really!]

But as someone who has chosen to make Midtown his home for the better part of the decade, I thought I might chime in regarding Second Saturday: what it has meant to Sacramento, and what it’s become.

I think SecSat (sorry, that’s my shorthand for it; SS is just a bit too gestapo for me) is one of the greatest things about our amazing city, like the zoo, the Crest Theatre, Art Beast, and Agent Ribbons (oops; bye, gals…postcard? Thanks.)

But like so many things in Sacramento, The Powers That Be chose to ignore it, rather than recognize it. They only acknowledged it — even after it was clearly a significant economic engine for mid- and downtown businesses — when a grassroots effort turned into a BONE-A-FY-DAY cultural event.

Yet the city has no trouble closing down blocks at a time, for “paying customers” like Gavin Newsom, which means us proles have to shell out 20 bucks just to cross the street, or walk several blocks out of our way to get to our destination. I’m guessing some who might read this site experienced as much this weekend at the “street fair” (what was fair about it?) in Midtown.

I want to give a shout out to 58 Degrees for actually talking to the folks who put last weekend’s event on, after we told our waiter(s) that we had such a hard time crossing our own neighborhood. (Oh, and the food’s great, too! Remember to tip your waitress.)

It’s so frustrating to see the city refuse to acknowledge how important SecSat and homegrown businesses are to our fair town on a cultural/artistic level, but still refuse to allocate the resources to make it an event that will — yes — bring in revenue. And by that, I mean (in part) allocating cops who won’t spend most of their time rounding up kids who are out past their bedtime, rather than keeping the public safe.

I’m a devoted fan of the Sacramento French Film Festival. Every year, they have Midnight Movies: films that are edgy, daring, or downright dirty. So they show them after dark. Literally midnight on the two Saturdays of the festival. (Oh, plus there’s croissants and orange juice afterwards. Yum!)

Awesome thing, right? Yay Sacramento! Go team!

In my six years of attending the fest, guess how many squad cars I’ve seen patrolling K Street as us film geeks stagger bleary-eyed out of the theatre…the “crown jewel” of Sacramento’s movie palaces for an event that inevitably attracts several members of the city council on opening night.

Yeah, that’d be…sorry, I always have to count on my fingers, gimme a sec…um, okay, exactly…

None.

Wait, lemme check my fingers again. It’s hard for me to count and type at the same time.

*

Okay, I’m back. Yeah. None. Not even a thumb, in case you think that counts as a finger.

We live in a weird town. Proud to be the Capital of the sixth largest economy in the world, but also somewhere where Mark S. Allen doesn’t just thrive; his quotes wind up on movie ads in newspapers around the country.

I feel a therapy group coming on. Anyone want to meet for coffee and talk about their childhood?!

Second Saturday was, and is, awesome. It’s changed, and in some ways I miss what it used to be. But I think what’s happening is that Sacramento is going through some growing pains. The question is, will the “parents” be sympathetic…or are we grounded, with no supper?

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17 thoughts on “Second Saturday: Hot or Not?”

  1. If “SS is just a bit too [G]estapo” for you, I suggest you stop being so niggardly with the English language. Your fear of offending takes precedence over your willingness to express your thoughts, and makes for a blasé post. By way of summary, if I understand properly, either you’d like a police escort home after the Sacramento French Film Festival, or the SFFF doesn’t attract the type of person that requires police involvement to tame things down.

    The SSS (Second Saturday Shooting) is by no means a “growing pain.” It’s a result of a bad element discovering the event. Weed out the bad elements by whatever means are appropriate (including cover charge, changing the time of the event, heavy police presence, etc.), and you solve the problem. Parking problems are a growing pain.

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  2. “It’s so frustrating to see the city refuse to acknowledge how important SecSat and homegrown businesses are to our fair town on a cultural/artistic level, but still refuse to allocate the resources to make it an event that will — yes — bring in revenue.”

    That sentence makes no sense: if the city refuses to acknowledge how important SS is, then of course it won’t allocate resources to make it a revenue-making event.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is the first time Turty_Squip’s comment made more sense than a Sac Rag post.

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  3. The problem is, our city has darn few resources these days–they can’t allocate resources they don’t have. Every cent the city spends has to come from somewhere–mostly, from taxes we pay, from other government sources, and from fees and fines. While economic activity generates sales tax, and special events generate fees (and sometimes fines,) if the total taxes generated are less than the city is being asked to spend, it’s not a good deal for the city. Economic activity is fine, but if the long-term result of that economic activity is a set of problems that costs a lot of money to deal with, it is a net loss for the city, especially if bad behavior scares people away from patronizing Midtown businesses (sales tax) or moving to the central city (property tax.)

    The Gavin Newsom event on 20th Street was not put on by or for the city of Sacramento–a private organization (i think the Young Democrats) paid for the special event, including a fee to close the street. Street closure fees are city revenue, but generally special event fees only pay for their own basic costs (the time of city staff needed to block off the street, set up diversions, police time, etc.) so these events don’t necessarily make the city money.

    As to cops on K Street: I haven’t been to the French Film Festival’s midnight showings, but I am at the Trash Film Orgy midnight showings more often than not, and I do see occasional police vehicles on K Street when leaving the TFO–and almost always see them on patrol on my way home from the Crest. What I always see is private security outside of the Crest, Cosmo, Parlare and the Citizen. Businesses like bars and nightclubs have an obligation to provide their own security, not just for indoors but also in the immediate vicinity of their clubs–for the safety of their patrons and the well-being of the neighborhood. A lot of Midtown bars have really fallen short in that regard, and the Midtown Business Association’s latest answer is an all-volunteer security force. Not sure if you have ever worked the door or security at a nightclub, but it takes a special kind of person (that is, a masochist) to do that job for free.

    As to Second Saturday’s status as a genuine cultural event, it stopped being about the art years ago. The general consensus of gallery owners is that they could all just shut their doors and it wouldn’t make any difference–not to their sales (since they don’t sell much on Saturday, spend a lot, and they’re a big pain in the neck to run) or to the visitors (most of whom don’t give a hoot about art, they are there for the street scene.) Galleries are moving out of the Midtown epicenter, staying closed on Second Saturday, or closing altogether.

    This separation of Second Saturday’s original function from its current form has created a cognitive split. The people hollering to “save” Second Saturday are trying to prop up the illusion that Second Saturday is still an art event that ends at 10 PM, and the mob of people who are still there after 10 PM and stay until well after 2 are just some wild coincidence that just happens to occur on the second Saturday of each month. It’s kind of like saying “Well, I poured this can of kerosene all over, and then lit a match, but I have no idea why everything is suddenly on fire!”

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  4. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. And I’m 95% with you. But I hate to think Second Saturday doesn’t play an important role in Sacramento. Even if it’s changed. And yes, it has. And I have been disappointed about certain things.

    Sundog was right to call me out for my inelegant language, but what I was trying to say was: how many gazillion K Street proposals do we have to go through before the city recognizes that Second Saturday rose from the ground up, and is far more successful — and at the end of the day meaningful and profitable — than any of the ideas that have been floated by shaky K Street developers?

    I can cite a dozen midtown businesses that could have easily found a home on K Street, if they’d gotten a tenth of the subsidies that large, out-of-town companies have receieved from the city. I’m not saying every one would have succeeded; many would have folded by now. But seriously…root for the home team.

    I’m someone who enjoyed many — and occasionally helped plan — Second Saturday events. The idea of it going away, instead of putting in resources to make it better/safer is not something I’m into. People coming together to share and create art? Sorry, but, c’mon. I’m right there. I’m on it like white on rice.

    J.

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  5. Is the right question being asked? We all like the idea of SS. We all liked what it was. We all want it to go back to that. Some of us even liked the post 10pm part of it. However it has changed in to something most of us are not comfortable with. The new question should be:

    What would need to change for you to want to bring an out of towner to Second Saturday after sun down?

    For me the active gang banging would need to be squashed. I am not talking about loitering and drinking. I mean the out and out fights, and guys yelling out gangs, and neighborhoods at each other. I like that police were enforcing curfew. I hope they keep that up. I hope they crack down on all of the minor stuff. Guys who are gang banging, and drinking in public will likely end up documented, or come back with a warrant. So it is a win win. However I don’t want to go to a warrant sweep. I will avoid SS until it is cleaned up.

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  6. Jacob: Nobody is talking about doing away with Second Saturday entirely. But we have reached the point where it has changed into something very unlike its original intent–and its current form is causing problems that are not easily ignored or discounted. I don’t think it is possible to go back to what it was, any more than we can go back to the city we were in 1992 when Second Saturday started.

    Nor would we want to.

    In 1992, Midtown was still a neighborhood most people ignored or avoided. People lived there because the rent was cheap, it was more tolerant of gays, people with funny haircuts and other folks who didn’t feel welcome in the suburbs, and there was a nascent underground culture. But Midtown was not considered much of a nightlife destination or a desirable residential neighborhood by most of the Sacramento region. Today, we’re considered a regional success story, a neighborhood that cities around the country want to emulate. If the purpose of Second Saturday was to bring attention to the neighborhood, it worked–oh boy, did it work!

    Most people don’t go to Second Saturday for the art these days. They go to experience city life, to see and be seen, to dine, to enjoy the company of a crowd. Now, those are all important aspects of the life of any active, vibrant city. But they are pretty unimportant to the art galleries, supposedly the focus of Second Saturday. And there is very little reason why Sacramentans should only get to experience city life once per month.

    What I propose is this: Introduce some elements of the “non-art” part of Second Saturday into Midtown’s regular weekend mix. Street vendors, street food carts, street musicians, street activities. Not one day a month, but every weekend. Not even just Friday and Saturday–if there is a day when Midtown still seems kind of quiet, it’s Sunday. And if it works well, why not the weekdays too? Some regulation will be necessary–primarily business permits for street vendors. Fees generated will help offset the costs that more street life incurs, like more police patrols and regular trash pickup. More street activity will encourage people to patronize Midtown stores, walk around for pleasure, and stop to shop or eat on the way–just as they do on Second Saturday, but with easier parking and shorter lines.

    In practice, if Midtown always has a bit of Second Saturday going on, you don’t have to check your calendar to know something interesting is happening. Thus, instead of everyone showing up at the same time, causing problems with parking and traffic and street crowds and long waits at restaurants, it’s busy but not unmanageable. A full-time Midtown thus becomes easier to visit. It’s better for business–instead of one busy day and 29 days of scraping by, the end result is 30 moderately busier days. The end result is a much greater total amount of foot traffic when taken as a whole.

    Now, adding all these features to the rest of the month doesn’t mean canceling Second Saturday the arts event. We can still have it–but it will be one lively weekend among many, focused back on the arts and the galleries. Maybe we can find other specialties for the other weekends–one for crafts, or fashion, or theater, or music. But really, we shouldn’t have to find excuses to go downtown and hang out. We should just be able to go, and naturally expect to find something going on. We’re not ending the arts event aspect of Second Saturday. Instead, we can save it from its own success.

    One more idea: Second Saturday originally started downtown, not in Midtown–its shift to Midtown happened for several reasons, but if there is a neighborhood that could use a little more foot traffic in the evening, it is downtown. Let’s spread out Second Saturday in time and space by moving the vendors, bands and other street-party aspects a few blocks west, from Midtown into Downtown. K Street has a few bright spots, with a few more on the way, but unless something comes along to help catalyze the neighborhood, even the heavily-subsidized properties on the Mall may dim in short order.

    By moving Second Saturday back where it began, we can help give downtown what it is currently missing–a lively, energetic street scene. It can also help cross the imaginary boundary at 15th Street between downtown and midtown. Put a row of vendors and a live band in between the Convention Center and the Community Center on 14th and K, encourage pedestrians to continue past Spataro onto K Street, and introduce those Midtown visitors to a part of the central city they haven’t seen at night since Thursday Night Market.

    And, in a few years, if Downtown doesn’t need the help anymore, we can always expand the idea farther out–to Del Paso Heights or Oak Park. It’s a good tool to bring attention to a neighborhood that needs some…the way that Midtown was in 1992, but is certainly not in 2010.

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  7. I live in the heart of midtown and I can tell you that “art walk” has nothing to do with what happens here once a month, and hasn’t for at least two years. We can wish it was still about art, and we can hate to think that it isn’t, but the reality check here is IT’S A STREET PARTY, and everyone is invited, and everyone is fucking hammered. The only art installations I’ve seen here recently is the horking detritus of college girls, multi-colored and fascinating, looking kind of like Chalk It Up after a rainstorm.

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  8. I don’t mean to be pessimistic but isn’t the biggest problem just the fact that gangbangers are out there at all? We can move it around and change the name, but will that work? If there are thugs around, then wherever they are and whenever they’re there it is just going to be dangerous, whether it is Second Saturday or every Sunday or whatever.

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  9. The gangbangers are a symptom of the problems of Second Saturday, and perhaps Sacramento as a whole–but they are not the cause. Treating the symptom doesn’t necessarily provide a cure.

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  10. Second Saturday’s aftermath has been an ongoing issue in the central city for months before this incident–this year, I think it reached the “tipping point” between something interesting and lively and nearing the point where it spins out of control. A busy downtown is good, up to a certain point–and on Second Saturday, we go beyond that point. That’s why I think we should spread out some of the elements of Second Saturday that draw pedestrians to every weekend. They’re great ways to promote a healthy level of street life, that will spread that Second Saturday crowd over the entire month instead of all at once. The end result is a livelier but less crazy street scene, and more overall revenue for local businesses–which means more overall revenue for local government. And because it would present a neighborhood that is both interesting and livable, it would provide better marketing for those interested in living downtown, rather than just a sort of drunken Disneyland (the Jankiest Place on Earth.)

    Gangs show up because where there are prey (in the form of drunk suburbanites) you will find predators. They also recognize that police have their hands full just keeping basic order on Second Saturday, as we saw this month–a shooting took place on a block with multiple police, but because of the crowds, the nearby officers could not even see the shooter, let alone prevent their escape. Spreading out the crowds and turning down the street scene to a dull roar means fewer drunken victims, fewer crowds to vanish into, and more funding for things like police staff to maintain regular patrols and order instead of playing crowd control.

    Breaking up the “street party” aspect would also decouple it from the art event aspect of Second Saturday (formerly the whole point of Second Saturday) which has been lost in the shuffle, to the point where gallery owners are sick of it–some have moved their gallery out of Second Saturday’s epicenter, or shut their doors entirely, or want to continue but are sick of the mobs.

    saconomics: TS;LTR

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  11. I take your point — things can be causes of problems and also symptoms of other problems. If the problem is a homicide, then the person who committed the homicide is the cause. However that person might be a symptom of another problem — i.e. the presence of the gang element. This presence in turn is a symptom of another problem. But if we’re talking about too much foot traffic or too many suburbanites with their two buck Chuck interfering with the enjoyment of art, I feel like that problem needs to take a back seat.

    I don’t have any reason to disagree that dismantling the monthly massive street party and trying to create that type of vibe more often during the month would lessen crowds on an individual day. What I was saying is that the thugs would just move on to something else. Or not! Because I think in this case we’re talking about gangs beefin’. Innocent people were hurt but this isn’t the Old West, they weren’t held up by highwaymen. They were in the crossfire in a street gang war (assuming that is what happened).

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  12. Capital Public Radio discussion about tomorrow night’s Second Saturday festivities in Midtown.

    Last month’s shooting killed one bystander, injured two others and pushed lingering safety concerns from residents into the spotlight. Since then, city officials, business leaders and neighbors have met. And tomorrow’s Second Saturday will feature a few tweaks. For example, the Art Walk and music will stop a half hour earlier, leading to a strict 10pm curfew for minors.

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